Nurturing Cricket Prodigies

Restricting himself to support staff team and avoiding lime light not only reflects Dravi’d humility but a strategy to expose power house of Indian cricket to media glare waiting ahead

By Adarsh Vinay

“The great players I have played with and the people that I have had the honour to play against know how to fail well. We have often heard ‘failure is the stepping stone to success,’ but it’s just that you can fail badly and can also fail well. Failing well is very, very important.”

Rahul Dravid addressed a gathering with these words a long time ago. With 24,208 runs from 509 international games with 48 centuries to his name, calling his career a failure would be doing him a grave disservice. But if you were intent on nitpicking, you could say that for such an illustrious career, the absence of a World Cup medal is a glaring blemish on his report card.

At long last, however, he has gone ahead and fixed that. Having helped good player like Virat Kohli to emerge as great player (which Kohli admits Dravid’s role as his IPL captain and mentor of RCB) and converting better technique into performance in the form of Ajinkya Rahane as Rajasthan Royal mentor, Dravid is still contributing to the Indian cricket post retirement. Though he failed to get his hands on cricket’s most coveted trophy as a player, he has guided his starlets to the Under-19 World Cup trophy as coach. And it’s not the achievement itself; it’s how he went about the process that deserves appreciation.

Dravid was appointed the head coach of the India-A side and the Indian Under-19 side in 2016 and since then has gone on to make glorious inroads for both teams. As the coach of the India-A side, his job is to improve our main team’s bench strength and he has done just that. The likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, Kedhar Jhadav, Manish Pandey and Shreyas Iyer have become regulars in our national side while players like Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar have had a taste of T20 internationals, all thanks to Dravid.

Pandya is perhaps the player who has benefited the most from Dravid’s tutelage. Talking to DNA, Pandya was all praise for Dravid, “For me, everything changed after my tour of Australia with the India A team. It is a tour that transformed me as a cricketer. I can’t thank Rahul Dravid enough for his contribution. I understood that there is a mental aspect about the game that needs to be worked upon. He (Dravid) made me mentally stronger.”

This was not Dravid’s first World Cup as coach of the Under-19 team. The 2016 team lost in the final to West Indies. But just like he had spoken about failing well, Dravid persisted. Having reached the final, he wanted to go on and win the trophy on his second attempt. But not by giving up on his values.

He has always insisted that the Under-19 level should focus on gaining exposure, not winning titles. Five of the players from the 2016 edition were eligible for this year’s tournament but instead of opting for strength, Dravid chose to field a new 15. He felt it was inadvisable for the previous crop to continue in the comforts of Under-19 cricket and felt that they should instead go on to play Ranji and push for a slot in the senior side.

India defeated Australia in the final of 2012 Under-19 World Cup. But 6 of those Australians have made it to their national side while only one from India made it to the senior team. Dravid is quick to point that out. When you look at that stat, who was the real winner of that tournament, he asks. Additionally, he insists that Prithvi Shaw might not have had the chance to be captain and Shubman Gill would not get to be vice-captain and bat at his preferred no. 3 slot had India gone with the 2016 players.

His coaching style is also commendable. Always positive, always approachable and always helping, he brings the best out of his team and his coaching staff. “They’ve got to play in a way that makes them feel comfortable because at the end of the day, you’ve got to enjoy the game. You can’t play the game which is not your personality. Your personality has to dictate the way you play the game. This is a process of discovery and learning, about cricket and also about who you are as a person,” says Rahul Dravid, talking to the ICC.

Having helped his squad all the way to the trophy, Dravid was gracious in victory and never once took centre stage. In fact, he even admitted that it was ’embarrassing’ that the limelight was always on him even though he was only the coach, because of everything he has achieved as a player.

Upon returning from New Zealand after helping India win the Under-19 title for a record fourth time, Dravid — instead of basking in the glory — was quick to focus on what lies ahead. “It’s a memory they’ll cherish for a long time and hopefully it’s not a memory that defines them and they will have a lot more bigger and better memories as they go on ahead in their careers,” said Dravid, at a felicitation event in Mumbai.

As part of the celebrations, a prize of Rs 30 lakhs was announced for each player while the members of the coaching staff were awarded Rs 20 lakhs each. Dravid however was awarded Rs 50 lakhs. Reports immediately emerged that Dravid was unhappy with the BCCI’s decision as he hadn’t done anything exceptional to warrant a bigger prize. He felt the entire backroom staff, including him, should be awarded equally. If that’s not yet another lesson in humility, what is?

With Virat Kohli and Co. making glorious inroads everyday with the national side and the responsibility of the next crop of stars in the hands of someone as humble and focused as Dravid, the future of Indian cricket does indeed look promising.